Why President Zuma’s State of the Nation address fails

Listening to President Zuma’s speech, I was impressed but then, when I started thinking about the content, I became less and less impressed.  So I went to look at the online version of the full speech.

I went to bed thinking that while there was some merit in the content — something is being done — it fell horribly short.  Zuma was like a little boy with his hand in the cookie jar, handing out sweets to those (industry, business, labour) who could help him stay class captain.

Here are just seven reasons why I think he shold get a Fail:

  • Tourism, which has overtaken mining in importance, received just ONE passing mention in the whole speech.
  • Limpopo is to get vast infrastuctural expenditure to pave the way for new platinum, coal and other mines in the Waterberg region, which has the pristine Waterberg Biosphere at its heart.  There was not a mention of protecting the Waterberg’s most sustainable assets!
  • He spoke about new rail infrastructure in Mpumalanga, because heavy trucks from the coal mines are damaging the roads.  Three years ago, then then CEO of Transnet was looking at a plan to get heavy trucks off all roads — as happens in Switzerland (and SA before democracy) — to utilize rail more effectively.  Even little Riebeek-West in the Western Cape would applaud this.
  • Speaking before the President’s address, Speaker of the House Max Sisulu was interviewed about his expectations.  He hoped it would address the “knowledge economy” — a phrase completely absent in the President’s entire address!
  • With infrastructure development at the fore — and the President needs to deliver on this now — Green issues will have to fight for their survival.  Having hosted COP17 does not guarantee government’s Green agenda and certainly not in the face of the tender frenzy that will be unleashed.
  • The President seems unaware — which is understandable given his rural/agricultural background — of the social damage which so many mines bring to the towns where they operate.  They are colonisers in the imperial sense, and 99% of labour is “grunt” labour.  A new vision… or any real 21st century vision… is lacking.
  • When it comes to housing and the provision of services, people are treated as statistics — because bureacrats and technocrats don’t know any better.  There’s no vision to combat rural and peri-urban sprawl and replace it with higher-density urban communities… in places offering identity, delight and opportunity.  Government’s housing policy, and achieving equality in services, is not sustainable and will never meet expectations of the wider populace.

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